The Hope of Freedom

truthFebruary as many know (or perhaps many still do not know) is Black History Month. I believe that black history is all our history and should be acknowledged as much as possible throughout the year. 

With that being said, here is one of the latest books I have read and want to share with you. The Gospel Truth  is a historical fiction YA novel written by Canadian author Caroline Pignat. I took my time reading this book as it was written in free verse; I wanted to savour the words. Considering the author is a Caucasian woman from Canada, I thought she was able to deliver an authentic voice of the teenage African American slave, Phoebe, who lived the deep South. Pignat did her research and from it she create a stunning piece of work. Pignat challenged herself by writing from not only a single character’s POV, but from multiple characters (5 in total). Every character she used each had a distinct voice which added layers and dimension to the story.  While the plot of book may be slightly predictable, the reading of the book was thoughtful and vivid for me.

Great book and great effort by a Canadian author! I want to thank Pignat for being an example of someone who understands the fact that the stories of history belong to all of us and need to shared with everyone.

I also want to applaud the artist for the striking book cover. The artist was able to portray the character with exact detail as provided by Pignat.




Do You Dare?

don't push the buttonI haven’t written a post in a while so I will try to do a couple in October. 

I have discovered a new interactive picture book entitled Don’t Push the Button by Bill Cotter. I brought this book with me on field trip for the kids I work with (it was a long bus ride…the book was a helpful entertainment tool).

Readers are introduced to a monster named Larry who tells you not to push a button. However, two pages in he entices readers to push the button and when you do crazy things happen to Larry. First, he turns yellow, next he gets polka dots, later he duplicates, and eventually after being told to press the button many times Larry multiplies! Aside, from pressing the button, children can shake the book too! The illustrations in this book are bright, clear and simple. It certainly helps children note the differences that occur within the story. While the story is an easy one, when I compare it to the book Press Here, I was a little disappointed that there was not more actions required from reader beyond “pushing a button” and shaking the book. Based on the kids I read the book with, I feel the 3-4 years old appreciated the story and had fun with it.

Will you dare to push the button? Happy reading!!

For the Love of Picture Books (Part 2)


As promised here is the second half of my favourite picture books list.

Tchaikovsky Discovers America by Esther Kalman and illustrated by Laura Fernandez & Rick Jacodsen

tchaiksovshyWhen I was little my mom bought me a set of cassette tapes that told stories about famous classical composers. One of my favourites was the one about Tchaikovsky. This picture book is based on that cassette tape. The illustrations are beautifully detailed, taking up two full pages sometimes. This is a great book to have if you want to introduce children to classical music.

Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss

No picture book list is complete without drseussDr. Seuss. My aunt and uncle gave me this book when I graduated from grade 12 and I cherish this thoughtful gift. Seuss brings whimsy, charm, and poignancy with his illustrations and words.  If you are taking on a new challenge in your life, this book is a nice read before you conquer it.

So…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea, you’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So… get on your way!

Tales of Magic and Wonder by Berlie Doherty and illustrated by Juan Wijngaard

talesI became very interested with folk tales and fairy tales (particularly retold fairy tales) when I entered Junior High (and I am still interested to this day). I found this book and was delighted by the stories and illustrations. Doherty provides ten stories from all over the world (Africa to Ireland and even Canada). I am finding it hard to get a copy of this book as it is no longer in print. I hope to be able to own this book in the near future.

press here

Press Here by Hervae Tullet

This is my new favourite book to read to children (preschool aged). The kids I work with are absolutely delighted to read this story because it is interactive. In a world bombarded with technology, I like how Hervae is able to create cause-and-effect in a low tech way… through a book. Also, reading this book with kids is a simple way for them to follow directions. Why not read the book, press a paint colour, and see what happens!

For the Love of Picture Books

A book with beautiful illustrations plus an engaging story line makes for a great reading experience. Picture books are not just for kids, they are great for adults too (but, if you feel odd about reading a picture book in public find a kid to share it with). Here are some of my beloved picture books:

Pet Show by Ezra Jack Keats

pet-show-keatsThis book was published in the seventies, yet I always liked the bold paint strokes and textures of this book. The story tells of a boy named Archie who is searching for his cat in order to win a ribbon in the pet show. All of his friends have a pet and his cat is no where to be found. So, Archie brings a glass jar in which he has his pet germ named Al locked inside. It is a fun and sweet read, as well as a book that has remained on my bookshelf to this day.

Mr Gumpy’s Motor Car by John Burningham

burninghamThis is an export from the United Kingdom and the illustrations nicely depict the English setting. In this story Mr Gumpy sets out for a ride in his motor car. Before he can make it down the lane he hears the call of the freeloaders (the children, the rabbit, the cat, the dog, the pig, the sheep, the chickens, the calf and the goat) wanting to hop in the car to join in the ride. In the climax of the story, the motor car gets stuck in the mud and when Mr Gumpy asks the freeloaders to get out of the car and push no one wants to help. Eventually, everyone gets out to help, they make it up the hill, and return back home. I like this book because of its simple message of teamwork and adorable drawings. Children will adore this book.

Miss Nelson is Missing by James Marshall and illustrated by Harry Allard

Miss-NelsonMom used to buy my brother and I lots of books on tape, this book was one of our favourites. This is the story of the kind and genteel teacher Miss Nelson and her misbehaving miscreant students. Miss Nelson does the old switcheroo and creates an alter ego, the witch like Miss Viola Swamp. She scares the pants off these kiddos and gets them to do work. When Miss Nelson returns the kids are grateful and treat her with the upmost respect. Marshall knows how to write with creative humour and the fun cartoon pictures pair nicely with the text.

Hippo, Potta and Muss by Barbara Softly and illustrated by Tony Veale

IMG_3981Did you know that the hippopotamus is one of the most dangerous animals in Africa. While that is not the main lesson in this story, as I reread the book that fact stuck with me. In this story three hippos named Hippo, Potta, and Muss (their mother clearly had a sense of humour) sneak away from their mom in sights of a new blue pool in which to swim.  Following the advice of a toucan, they find a lovely blue sea. After playing on the beach they want to cool off in the water. When they jumped into the salty sea it makes them cough so hard the boats are overturned and they wake the sleeping beach bums. The hippos manage to escape the angry mob by grabbing hold of the toucan’s tail and they fly back home to their mom. Shockingly, the illustrator of this book only used three colours  (blue, yellow and green) and he is able to tie the hilarity of the story nicely with his drawings. This is a great book to read with youngsters who are just learning their colours as well as to work on predictions and inferences.

Hold on there… part two is coming soon!

The Martian – Reading Sci -Fi

Hey hey hey!

I read Andy Weir’s The Martian last year when I was on a sci-fi reading kick. I believe this was Weir’s first book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The Martian is a gripping survival story on the planet Mars. Astronaut Mark Watney is one of the first six people to walk on Mars, but he also could be the first to one die there as well.  I loved reading Watney’s crass and to the point dialogue and the clever ideas he develops to survive alone on Mars. I particularly liked his ability to grow potatoes on the red planet because it was quite ecological and organic (this makes sense if you read the book). Watney is a gutsy, nerdy, and likable character, it is easy to root for him.

While at times I didn’t always understand the scientific jargon used in the book, it wasn’t so complex that I felt lost in the reading.

When I finished this book I felt this could make a great movie. Lo and behold, it is becoming one with Matt Damon playing the role of Mark Watney along with a host of other popular actors. There are very few book-to-movie adaptations that I like (one I can honestly say I liked was The Help by Kathryn Stockett); as the saying goes the movie is never as good as the book. I hope that is not the case with The Martian, I look forward to seeing how it will come together.

Happy reading!

My Top Poetry Books – Part 2

IMG_3796  celebrations b knock knock

Here we are again!

As April comes to a close this is part 2 of my favourite poetry books.

1. Chaser of the Light: Poems from the Typewriter Series by Tyler Knott Gregson

I saw this book in passing while exiting the book store and I am glad it caught my attention. According to the author, Gregson, he found a typewriter in a store and fell in love. The moment his fingers touched the keys words flowed out and poems were born. I enjoyed reading his poetry and looking at the photography that accompanied it. Gregson’s poems are lovely, simple and true. Let’s just say if you wanted to win someone’s heart, quote a Gregson poem.

Do you think it possible/that some people/are born to give/more love/than they will ever/get back/in return?

2. Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou is a force with the pen and I am sorry that she is no longer here on this planet, but her wisdom lives on in the words she left behind. I’m glad I had to opportunity to hear her speak in person when she came to my hometown. Anyways, this is a collection of the poems Angelou wrote for various events and people. She does a great job of personalizing the poems to fit the situation and one is left feeling uplifted.

Notable poems to check out: “Mother: A Cradle to Hold Me” and “Continue”

3. B by Sarah Kay

This is Sarah Kay’s spoken word in written format. If you are looking a gift for your mom this Mother’s Day check out this poem. It is beautifully written poem demonstrates the lessons mothers share with their daughters.

Best Line:

She’s gonna learn that this life will hit you, hard, in the face, wait for you to get back up so it can kick you in the stomach. But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air.

Here is the link to watch Kay’s spoken word on Youtube:

4. Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty

When I started reading this poem I felt as if I was familiar with the work already. I was right, I had heard of this poem before from a Def Jam Poetry video I saw from Youtube with the same title. This book is a reinterpretation of the Def Jam spoken word version as it is presented for children. The poem underlines the sad reality, for so many of young men and women growing up fatherless. The illustrations are layered and effective.

Here is a link to the Youtube spoken word video:

That’s all for now. Happy reading!

April is POETRY MONTH: My Top Poetry Books – Part 1

                 zorgamazoo   tears    sun      dark sons   


Poetry is a form of art.        

Words created from the heart.  

So take some time and have a look

At some of my favourite poetry books.

Did you know that April is Poetry Month? According to, Poetry Month was “established in Canada in April 1998 by the League of Canadian Poets (LCP)”* and this “year marks the 17th anniversary of National Poetry Month in Canada”**.

I had a hard time ranking these books because I like them all equally. So here is PART 1 of the list in no particular order.

1)       Zorgamzoo by Robert Paul Weston

This is a Narrative Poem written for children. I listened to it on audio tape which was read by Alan Cumming. He does such a wonderful job with accents that it made listening an enjoyable experience. This book is meant to be read aloud. Children (and those who are children at heart) will like the adventure of young Katrina Katrell and her zorgle monster Morty.

2)        Tears for Water by Alicia Keys

Songwriters are poets and in this book Alicia Keys demonstrates just that. This is a collection of her poems and original songs. Her poems in this book are strong and you can clearly hear her voice in them. My particular favourite poems are “When Gone is the Glory” and “P.O.W. (Prisoner of Words)”.

When gone is the glory/ When gone is the sun/ When gone is the game/ Then what have you won?

3)       A Cup of Sun by Joan Walsh Anglund

At one of the public library’s used book sales I found this thin little yellow book and was surprised to discover the loveliness found inside. The poems in this book are very short, but they highlight truths and the simple things in life.

There us only one doorway/ into Forever…/and Death keeps the only key.   (Pg. 35)

4)        Dark Sons by Nikki Grimes

This is another narrative poem about two boys having a difficult time with their fathers’ life choice. The poem is told through the alternating POVs and time periods. In the present day, we follow Sam who is reeling from the fact that his devout father leaves his mother and him for another woman. To top it off he has to deal with the entrance of a new sibling. The second perspective comes from Ishmael, the son of the Abraham and Hagar, in the Bible. His story parallels Sam’s in that he had deal with jealousy, disappointment with his own father and also the introduction of a new sibling (Issac). I applaud Grimes’ ability to portray the voice of each character in this mode of writing.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of My Top Poetry Books.



* National Poetry Month 2015. Retrieved from

** Ibid